I’ve been thinking of running a TTRPG campaign where the PCs are being accidentally dragged through many alternate worlds by the Big Bad. This allows for an episodic structure where they can foil a different plan in a different world each adventure, but also means the villain needs to successfully escape each time.
In my experience, even minor villains escaping from the PCs more than once or twice can easily be irritating; I could easily see the Big Bad always slipping away being infuriating. Do you have any advice on how to make the repeated escape of recurring villains more enjoyable, or at least palatable?
Hey GreatWyrmGold, thanks for writing in!
I really like your concept as a way of adding new settings each session. That’s a great way to spice up the campaign with a fresh injection of novelty each week.
You’re also right, though, that the villain escaping each week will get frustrating fast, especially since the villain is the one pulling them between dimensions. The players are likely to feel like they’re being led about on a leash they can’t escape. At the same time, a villain whom they defeat or chase off every session is going to lose their threat value fast. At that point, the PCs won’t care much about beating the villain and will take little joy in their victory when it finally comes.
While it’s possible you could mitigate this through clever sleight of hand, my instinct is to try flipping the script: instead of the villain pulling the PCs through multiple dimensions, is it possible for the PCs to be pursuing the villain through multiple dimensions?
If you go this route, the villain could have the ability to open portals, while the PCs have the ability to reopen the villain’s portals when they find one. This way, each session could feature the PCs showing up, dealing with whatever the villain did in this dimension, then finding the villain’s portal and giving chase.
The villain wouldn’t even have to be present most of the time. Instead, the PCs would have to solve whatever problem the villain created. Perhaps in one dimension, the villain unleashed a horde of demons, while in another they installed a brutal dictator to serve their own purposes. After dealing with the local problem, the PCs can hunt down the villain.
In this scenario, the PCs have agency in their quest, which will make them far more willing to play ball with you. The key would be making sure the PCs had a reason to chase the villain across multiple worlds. You can always just put a huge bounty on the villain’s head, but since this is the central premise of your campaign, it helps to be double sure.
One option is to simply ask every player what their character’s reason is. Maybe the villain killed one PC’s family, and maybe another PC wants the villain’s spellbook. Alternatively, you could run a few starter sessions before the dimension-hopping starts and use them to gauge what each PC cares about. If one PC is all about making money, then a cash reward will do fine. If another has a strong sense of justice, you can describe how the villain burned down an orphanage full of puppies!
Hope that helps you with your campaign, and good luck!